In Itri there are several olive mills, the largest of which is a new modern building, marked with a curious tall post mounted with a ball made of yellow wire mesh, which is illuminated at night, presumably it is supposed to represent an olive.
However, we normally choose to get this batch of our olives processed at the local Co-operative. At the olive mill, first our crates were weighed and marked with our name, and then stacked until it was their turn for processing.
During the first process the olives are tipped into a hopper and passed through a vibrating machine which separates the olives from the leaves and any other debris.
Then they are washed, and sent on to another machine for the second process, where they are mechanically sliced, crushed, mashed and churned to produce a smooth pulp.
The third process extracts the liquid mixture of oil and water and feeds it into a large centrifuge, whilst the remaining solids are collected for further processing offsite.
A session of spinning to separate the oil from the water follows, the oil after a last filtering being finally decanted into the olive producer’s portable container.
It is back-breaking work, but it is incredibly satisfying to see our own olives transformed into freshly milled, vibrant golden green oil.
From tipping the olives into the hopper at the beginning of the “continuous cycle” , to the oil flowing out the other end takes a little more than one hour.
Our olives had been harvested early in the season, so they tend to produce slightly less oil, but one of an extra high quality (low levels of acidity) with a fruity and slightly peppery after taste. Oil derived from fully mature olives, harvested later in March or April, would be somewhat denser, less bitter and with higher levels of acidity.
To be classified as “Extra Virgin” olive oil this has to be extracted during the “first pressing” of the olives and must have an acidity level of below 1%, therefore, the lower the acid level, the higher the quality oil. More oil can be (and is) extracted from the solids remaining after the first extraction, but a lower quality olive oil is the result. Finally after all the oil processing is done the remaining matter is pressed into briquettes for burning on open fires.
Therefore our own olive oil, could be labelled:
“Derived solely from the Itrana variety of olives”
It is a superior quality oil, with a good flavour, and is noted to be exceptionally low in acidity, in fact far below the 1% international standard.
Many olive oils that you can buy fairly cheaply in supermarkets may be labelled “Extra Virgin”, but these can be made from a blend of oils of varying quality.
It is rather like the blending of whisky, where taste and quality can vary widely. Our “Tre Cancelle Olive Oil” is more comparable to a superior Single Malt Whisky, of infinitely higher quality – “The real McCoy” !!!
Chefs would generally choose this type of “quality oil” to dress a salad, rather than for use in general cooking.
Well – This is just the beginning of our Olive Harvest. The harvesting will go on for several weeks/months.
Some excellent News !!! At the end of November we have some of our past guests coming to stay, known lovingly the “Welsh Girls” (despite the fact that they are not all Welsh !), who have volunteered to come to help us with the olive harvest.
We are sure that even without the offer of free accommodation and wine, they would have come anyway !!!
Any other volunteers ???